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5 biggest roadblocks between Eagles and Super Bowl LII

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5 biggest roadblocks between Eagles and Super Bowl LII

There's no arguing the Eagles aren't the best team in the NFL right now. They have the best record at 8-1. They have the longest winning streak at seven games. And they're second in the league in point differential.

Of course, none of that guarantees the Eagles a trip to the Super Bowl, let alone a world championship. And in a season where there are a lot of bad, rudderless teams, and a lot of breaks appear to be going their way, there are actually quite a few teams that are hot on the Eagles' heels as well.

Just in the Eagles' conference alone, there are several surprise contenders are springing up alongside some of the usual suspects. Legitimate threats, many only a game or two back of the Eagles.

Sure, the Packers are out of the mix without Aaron Rodgers. The Falcons aren't the powerhouse they were last season. The Giants' inevitable fall was harder and faster than expected. Yet, the Eagles appear to have plenty of competition on the road to the Super Bowl.

In fact, the NFC feels kind of stacked right now, which — as good as the Eagles are — should probably scare people.

5. Carolina Panthers (6-3)
Yes, the Eagles already beat the Panthers. They did in Charlotte, too, which more than likely won't be the case if there's a rematch, and that was even in the face of some of the most lopsided officiating we've seen. But the case could be made Carolina hasn't peaked yet. Quarterback Cam Newton is getting stronger and stronger after offseason shoulder surgery, and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly exited that game early with an injury. It's hard to beat any team twice in this league to begin with. The Panthers might be better the next time around, and are only a year-and-a-half removed from a Super Bowl appearance themselves, so they know what it takes to get there.

4. Seattle Seahawks (5-3)
A case could easily be made the Seahawks are overrated. Their defense is great, but the offense comes and goes. Seattle doesn't run the ball effectively and can't protect quarterback Russell Wilson. And while this core group went to back-to-back Super Bowls in 2013 and 2014, they haven't made it past the divisional round the last two years. Yet, this is a team that usually gets stronger around this point of the season and always looks like a force to be reckoned with by the time January rolls around. Until they prove otherwise, I tend to believe the Seahawks have that in them. Then again, we'll get a preview when the Eagles visit Seattle in Week 13.

3. Dallas Cowboys (5-3)
The Cowboys clearly pose the biggest threat to the Eagles even before the postseason rolls around. With two games against Dallas over the last seven weeks of the season, they could have a dramatic impact on playoff season. A pair of losses would make it difficult for the Eagles to secure home-field advantage throughout or a bye, even put the NFC East up for grabs. And if the Eagles do manage to secure home field and a bye, the potential exists to see the Cowboys again on the doorstep to the Super Bowl -- the conference championship. Which team is better isn't even the question here. Dallas has more opportunities to screw with the Eagles' shot between now and February, and as a division rival, perhaps more motivation than anybody else, too.

2. Los Angeles Rams (6-2)
The only team in the NFL with a better point differential than the Eagles — by a whopping four points — the Rams might be the most intriguing team on this list. Last year's No. 1 overall draft choice, quarterback Jared Goff, has sort of taken a back seat to Carson Wentz, but has been extremely impressive as well. And in case you didn't notice, that's a Wade Phillips defense in LA, one that only seems to be improving as the season progresses. The Rams schedule down the stretch will be a good test as to whether this squad is for real, including a visit from the Eagles in Week 14. If what we've seen the first nine weeks is legit, though, they are a scary bunch.

1. New Orleans Saints (6-2)
The hottest team in the league right now after the Eagles probably isn't who anybody would've expected, either, but the Saints are legit. They finally aren't asking the world of quarterback Drew Brees, who can sling the football as well as anybody and has actually won a championship. The sudden emergence of a decent defense in New Orleans changes everything. After an 0-2 start, the Saints have won six in a row, with opponents averaging 15.0 points per game during that span. Good luck beating Brees that way. Obviously, the Eagles might have more success, but we wouldn't be able to find out if and until they meet in the playoffs. By then, it could be the NFC Championship, and the Saints would be both the only remaining threat and the greatest unknown standing in the path to the Super Bowl.

Honorable mention: Minnesota Vikings (6-2)
From the looks of things, a very good team is going to miss the playoffs this season -- and I don't necessarily mean the Vikings. Yet, assuming Minnesota does earn a berth into the tournament, their quarterback situation is a mess. Case Keenum is the guy for now, and while the team is winning games, he's extremely limited. Sam Bradford was on fire, but may not play again due to another knee injury. Teddy Bridgewater just came off the physically unable to perform list and his ascension to starter might be inevitable, but he hasn't played in a year-and-a-half. This is an outstanding team otherwise, but if they don't have a QB come January, the Eagles would eat them alive.

Eagles releasing Mychal Kendricks the right thing to do

Eagles releasing Mychal Kendricks the right thing to do

For the past two years, the Eagles kept Mychal Kendricks in a state of limbo. It was about time the team set him free.

The Eagles didn’t release Kendricks on Tuesday simply because it was “the right thing to do” — if there was such a thing in this instance. They did it because the move will save $6 million against the salary cap in 2018. They did it because Corey Nelson is a cheaper alternative. They did it because Kendricks isn’t an ideal fit for Jim Schwartz’s scheme. They did it because, evidently, they couldn’t find a trade partner.

In short, the Eagles released Kendricks because the 27-year-old linebacker wasn’t worth $16-plus million over the next two seasons. That really should be enough.

It was also about time the Eagles put Kendricks out of his misery. He made no secret about being unhappy with his reduced role since Schwartz became defensive coordinator, asking the team to either cut him or move him last offseason. The subject of trade rumors annually since 2015, Kendricks probably hadn’t felt comfortable about his standing with the organization for quite awhile.

At what point are the Eagles holding him hostage?

Good thing the club didn’t oblige Kendricks’ request last year, as he wound up filling in for the injured Jordan Hicks and playing a pivotal part in the Eagles’ Super Bowl run. Some see that as evidence the team made a mistake in letting a six-year veteran with 78 career NFL starts to walk away for nothing.

While it’s true Kendricks came up big in 2017, he wasn’t exactly an impact player for the Eagles, finishing the season with four tackles for loss and two sacks in 18 games, including playoffs. He hasn’t forced a fumble since 2015. He hasn’t recorded an interception since 2013. And rushing the passer, arguably his greatest strength, goes almost completely unutilized in Schwartz’s scheme, which sent Kendricks after opposing quarterbacks just eight times all year, according to Pro Football Focus.

Numbers may not do Kendricks’ campaign justice, but typically more would be expected of somebody who was set to carry a $7.6 million cap figure into ’18.

The Eagles also feel they are in better shape now in terms of depth at the position (see story).

Kendricks’ days appeared to be numbered the moment the club signed Nelson and the free-agent addition declared he would compete for the starting weakside linebacker job. It’s unclear whether the Eagles are putting too much faith in the former Denver Broncos reserve and the host of linebacker prospects already on the roster. Regardless, the team likes its options.

So why force Kendricks to stick around? From the team’s standpoint, it was a lot of money for the level of production, for not being a great scheme fit and given his impending return to the bench. The Eagles were wise to keep him around for one more year, but with other arrangements since made, moving on now doesn’t sting as much.

The fact Kendricks was anything less than thrilled to be back only makes it easier. After handling his displeasure like a pro last season, then helping the Eagles win their first Super Bowl championship, granting his release seems like the least the team could do.

Joel Embiid takes shot at Aron Baynes on Twitter

Joel Embiid takes shot at Aron Baynes on Twitter

With the Sixers eliminated, Joel Embiid was asked at his end-of-the-season press conference if he had a prediction for which remaining team would win the NBA championship.

His response was short and simple.

"Nah," he said, "I don't care."

However, Embiid looks like he's still keeping some tabs on the NBA postseason.

And, watching from afar, he's apparently not too impressed with Aron Baynes.

If you recall, during the Eastern Conference semifinals series in which the Sixers fell to the Celtics in five games, Embiid and Baynes had their moments.

Lots of physicality. A few minor scuffles. And this monster dunk by Embiid.

That's probably what the Sixers' big man was referring to when he tweeted Monday night during Game 4 of the Cavaliers-Celtics series.

Could this play have prompted the tweet?

Baynes probably isn't focused on Embiid or Twitter right now in the heat of the Eastern Conference Finals, but maybe he'll be asked about the tweet during media availability sessions before the series goes to Game 5 Wednesday.

The 31-year-old from New Zealand, a role player not known for tons of offense but with a championship ring, can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. We'll have to see where he plays next season, but let's hope some matchups with Embiid are in the near future.